Schizoaffective disorder

For anyone who has been given a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, and their friends and relatives. Explains what the disorder is, and the types of treatment and support available.

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How can friends or family help?

This section is for the friends and family of someone who has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

As a friend or family member, you can be very important in helping someone recover from an episode of schizoaffective disorder and reducing the likelihood of them having further episodes.

Most people want to feel cared about, not to feel alone, and to have someone they can discuss their feelings and options with.

If someone is experiencing psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices, it can be very helpful if you:

  • accept that the voices are real for them, even if you can't hear them
  • focus on how they are feeling, rather than what they are experiencing

These may also help:

Ask how you and others can help

Ask your friend or relative how you can be most helpful. Practical things you can do might include:

  • support them to get treatment
  • help them to access a particular service
  • keep them company if they are going to something new, such as a treatment or activity, and are feeling anxious about it
  • encourage them to look after themselves if they are neglecting their general wellbeing or appearance
  • phone them regularly for a chat if you are not nearby
  • support them in making decisions – even if they have asked you to act on their behalf, it’s important to encourage them to make their own decisions, consult them and avoid 'taking over'
  • respect the choices they make, even if they would not be what you would choose for yourself
  • be clear about what you feel you can and can’t help with
  • help them get alternative support if necessary – it may be possible to find an independent advocate to help them

When your friend or relative is feeling well, it can be helpful to discuss with them how you can help if a crisis occurs or if they are at the start of another episode. You might:

  • encourage them to write a crisis plan
  • look out for symptoms
  • look out for triggers

This can help them to avoid crises or manage them differently in future where possible.

My fiancée isn't afraid to talk to me if she thinks I am getting worse. This has helped me notice changes myself.

Get help in an emergency

If you think your friend or family member may be at risk of hurting themselves or others, it may be necessary to consider a mental health assessment for them.

The 'nearest relative', as defined under the Mental Health Act, can request that the person at risk be given a mental health assessment by an Approved Mental Health Professional. This assessment involves considering treatment options and deciding whether or not the person should be admitted to hospital under the Mental Health Act.

Get support for yourself

It can be very upsetting when someone you are close to experiences a psychotic episode with severe depression or mania. You may find it helpful to get support in coping with your own feelings, or to talk to people who have similar experiences. This may be available at a local Mind or Rethink, or other carers’ group.

Carers are also entitled to have their own needs for practical and emotional support assessed by social services, as part of a carer’s assessment. A number of national and local voluntary organisations provide help and information for carers on these topics. 

This information was published in July 2016. We will revise it in 2019.

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